Column: RFS comment period a chance for Iowans to be heard
By BILL NORTHEY, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture
DES MOINES, Iowa — The Obama administration’s recent proposal to significantly reduce the amount of clean-burning renewable fuels that must be included in the fuel supply in 2014 is a shocking capitulation to Big Oil that threatens to significantly damage our state’s economy, puts consumers at risk through higher prices at the pump and would hurt the environment.
The renewable fuels standard (RFS) was passed with strong bipartisan support to promote the development of a domestic renewable fuels industry. It requires an increasing amount of renewable fuels to be included in nation’s fuel supply, and it has worked extremely well.
Consumers have seen significant savings at the pump as renewable fuels have helped hold down the price of both gasoline and diesel. A study by Iowa State University and the University of Wisconsin found that in 2010, domestic ethanol production helped keep gasoline prices $0.89 lower per gallon than they otherwise would have been.
In addition, Iowa farmers, businesses and communities have invested heavily to support the development of the renewable fuels industry to help meet the standard and have seen tremendous benefits from having these facilities in their communities.
Iowa is fortunate to lead the nation in the production of ethanol and biodiesel with 42 ethanol refineries capable of producing over 3.8 billion gallons annually and 12 biodiesel refineries with a combined annual capacity of over 315 million gallons. We also have three cellulosic ethanol facilities under construction, all of which are associated with an existing corn ethanol plant.
Unfortunately, EPA’s proposal would move us backward on both the ethanol and biodiesel requirements for 2014. Specifically, the proposal lowers the “corn ethanol” level from 13.8 billion gallons in 2013 to only 13 billion gallons in 2014 and freezes the biodiesel level at 1.28 billion gallons despite the fact the biodiesel industry is currently operating at an annualized rate of 2 billion gallons.
The renewable fuels industry has the capacity to produce well beyond the levels set by the EPA. What they need now is fair access to the fuel distribution system, which is unfortunately controlled by the Big Oil companies.
In their opposition to the RFS, Big Oil refer to the “blend wall,” which is their effort to limit renewable fuels to just 10 percent of the fuel supply. This artificial ceiling is just another effort by the oil industry to prevent more lower-priced, clean-burning renewable fuels from entering the fuel supply. In fact, there are lots of opportunities for higher ethanol blends. The vast majority of cars, all of those made since 2001, can run on E15 (15 percent ethanol) and many cars, those that are flex-fuel, can run on E85 (85 percent ethanol).
It makes me scratch my head that an administration so focused on climate change would take action to limit access to renewable fuels that have been shown to significantly reduce greenhouse gas and other harmful emissions.
The oil industry wants to limit the fuel choices for consumers and keep them buying their high-price, non-renewable petroleum based fuels. It is wrong for the EPA to support them.
The EPA is currently accepting comments on the proposed changes and it is extremely important that Iowans take the time to comment and express their opposition to the EPA’s proposal. Comments can be submitted online at www.regulations.gov or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All comments should reference Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0479.
Iowa is fortunate to have a governor who understands the importance of the renewable fuels industry and has created a website, ProtecttheRFS.com, where you can sign a petition encouraging the EPA to support clean-burning, homegrown renewable fuels.
Now is the time to be heard. The renewable fuels standard needs to be protected and it is important that we as Iowans stand up and let the EPA know we don’t want to be held over a barrel by Big Oil.
Bill Northey, a fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer from Spirit Lake, is serving his second term as Secretary of Agriculture.